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Getting on the ladder

Top 10 tips for buying your first home

Buying a house is no walk in the park. From being on it with your finances to choosing a mortgage to whipping your solicitor into shape – there are so many decisions to make and things that can go wrong. The tips below should help make your house-buying experience a whole lot smoother and give you the best chance of getting the house you want.


#1 | Get your $$$ in order

Saving for a deposit is obviously a massive blocker for most people but Boris and co. currently love first time buyers so absolutely take advantage of it. For example, lifetime ISAs (LISAs) allow you to save up to £4,000 a year and have 25% added providing you use the money for a house deposit. We got over £6,000 of free money towards our deposit from saving in LISAs so if you haven’t got one yet, crack on!

When you start thinking about actually buying, it’s time to stop your standing order to William Hill and limit your borrowing. To get a mortgage, lenders will look at your recent bank statements and take into account outgoings when working out how much you can afford so it’s worth being stingy for at least a few months before applying.

#2 | Set your expectations early on

Once you’ve started thinking about buying your first place, you’ll find there’s not many things more enjoyable than having a big old Rightmove sesh. The temptation is to spend weeks gushing over glorious houses, only to find out at a later date that what you can’t afford more than a grotty bedsit in the stabby part of town. To avoid this disappointment, it’s well worth visiting a mortgage broker or bank/building society relatively early so they can advise you on what the maximum mortgage you can get is. This way, you can spend your Rightmove hours productively browsing properties that you’re in a realistic position to buy and avoid wasting time.

#3 | Be decisive

Buying a house can be summarised as an endless string of decisions that happen to almost all be important and expensive. If you dilly-dally when making up your mind during this process, chances are that you’ll never get a house, or certainly not the house that you want.

If you’re not naturally good at making up your mind, this can be helped by working out what you want before you start searching for it. For example, something that we found really helpful was to do shed load of location reccies and house viewings before we were even in a position to buy. It just meant that when we found ourselves in a position to buy, we knew what we wanted. Here are some helpful tips on how to choose where to live & deciding what your ‘dream’ home is.

#4 | Build rapport with everyone you deal with

One thing that shocked us about buying our place was how many people are involved in the house buying process – the seller, estate agents, solicitors, mortgage lenders, surveyors, tradesmen etc. It’s key to keep these people on side as they all have more important things to worry about. I’m not condoning bribery or flirting – just being a pleasant person to deal with who’s bothered about other people is enough. We found this to be a massive help and probably wouldn’t have had our offer accepted if we hadn’t been friendly humans.

#5 | Package your offer well

It’s easy to assume that your offer is all about the number but I don’t reckon that’s the case. When considering an offer, the seller isn’t thinking only about the money, but also things like how flexible the buyer is and the chances of things falling through. It’s therefore crucial to ‘package’ your offer in a way that gives it the best chance of being accepted. For us, this meant going to make the offer in person and stressing that we were chain free, totally flexible on move date, had our deposit ready to go, and had a decision in principle. The more reasons you can give to choose you, the more likely you’ll get the house you want at a great price so here’s how to make your offer irresistible.

#6 | Understand the house buying process

To avoid any nasty shocks and come across as if you know what you’re on about, it’s well worth reading up on what buying a house entails. It’s not particularly exciting, but spending an hour or two familiarising yourself with things like how to arrange a mortgage and what solicitors do will pay off. I’ve written about our house buying journey which should be a good starting place but I’d recommend reading more widely.

#7 | Expect unexpected costs

When people talk about the difficulty of getting on the ladder they focus on saving up a deposit. Sure, this is the biggest cost, but we were flabbergasted by the extra costs we had when buying our place. On top of our deposit, we spent £3,430 before we even stepped through the door! Don’t get caught out like us by making sure you know about all the costs that could crop up whilst buying your first home. Imagine moving in and not being able to afford the ceremonial first night takeaway, nightmare.

#8 | Be reliable/punctual/organised

Other than chasing people up, you can do little to control how other people behave whilst you’re buying your home, but you can certainly set the standard and hope this influences others. Making a point of things like swiftly replying to calls/emails and returning paperwork promptly sounds basic but it’ll get you in estate agents’ & solicitors’ good books and makes them more likely to want to help you. Plus, if you don’t get on top of this stuff it’ll get on top of you as there’s a shed load of admin involved in house buying.

#9 | Get multiple quotes

It can be tempting when choosing a solicitor or surveyor to go with the first one that comes up in your searches but this is a bit daft. It’s always worth getting at least 3 quotes so you can A) have a strong idea of what price you should be paying and B) choose people based on how they come across rather than just online reviews. I don’t mean to sound like a knob, but if somebody replies to an email enquiry in text talk and puts xoxox at the end it’s an instant no for me. Nothing beats a personal recommendation so ask friends, family and colleagues where possible. The same logic goes for plumbers, electricians and any other tradesmen you may need to use.

#10 | Meet the seller #controversial

Meeting the seller may not be possible and admittedly may not be wise in certain cases. However, based on our experience, we found this to be really beneficial. Rather than relying on solicitors and estate agents for updates, we kept in touch with the seller throughout the process and were totally transparent with each other which made the whole thing far easier. There can be a fair amount of tension and frustration between different parties involved in buying and selling houses so to have a direct line to the seller was brilliant. We still have the occasional natter on WhatsApp!


Of course, there’s a load more to buying a house well than just these 10 tips, but if you can do this this stuff right I guarantee you’ll be on course to nail life.

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